Synead

Four Over Four had the opportunity to speak to New York artist and activist Synead after she released her first single.

You might recognize Synead from her past in political activism, as she was one of the first organizers of the Millions March in New York City to protest “the killings of unarmed black people by police officers.”

Synead has since utilized her art as a method and platform to speak about social and political injustices, but that isn’t all that she should be known for.

Her new single “Tropicao” is one to soundtrack your summer and will be sure to transport you to a tropical state of mind (even if you’re not on the beach).

You can watch her interview in its entirety below. Or you can read the full transcript after that, if you’re into that kind of thing (reading that is…).

They speak about society, and I think that’s important. If you have a platform, don’t just sit there and squander it, or you know, blow all your money. If you want to blow your money, cool, do something good for humanity. Give me one thing, and I’ll be happy.

Transcript:

I know you grew up in New York in a Trinidadian home, as the daughter of Trinidadian immigrants. I’m curious how that shaped you as an artist and as a person.

Well, Trinidad is very multicultural, so I grew up with a lot of different influences like Indian, Chinese, African; they kind of just played into a lot of things that I would listen to.

I grew up listening to a lot of Bollywood. Their musical bars are 16 measures, which is really cool, so they sing for a really long time. That would even help me with the songs I would sing, when I was riffing or R&B. It really had an impact, I guess, with the combination of all of those cultural things.

So music was one of the first things that influenced you?

For sure, music was. You have like things like soca and soca chutney, which is a mix of Caribbean music and Indian, so that’s a really cool blend.

You actually were first really recognized for your activism.

Yes I was, for Millions March NYC. That was a really crazy time, a really crazy two and a half weeks, putting all this stuff together through social media: Twitter, Tumblr, all the platforms that I had available to me.

I just reached out to people and asked for help. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had never organized anything before, so it was it was amazing to see the the in-pour of help. Everybody just flooded my inbox, offering help and to link me to people with specific skills.

The sense of community was really incredible.

What sparked the idea? What made you want to step out and organize an event like that?

I had gone to a protest the 25th of November. We were waiting to hear the verdict for Mike Brown, and obviously no one got indicted, so I protested all the way from Union Square to Harlem to 125th Street, to that bridge on the East Side.

I just kept thinking on my way going uptown, “What can I do?” I even had a crazy conversation with my mom on the phone. She was really upset, asking me “What are you doing? You need to go home. You need to be focused on school.” I was in my last semester of school, and I just replied “No. Fuck it. I don’t care, I’m gonna die anyways. What’s the point?”

I just felt “Why?” So, I thought I had to do something. What could I do? I kept thinking about in Mexico how they would use social media to gather these mass demonstrations, and in Egypt too. So I used social media, and it really worked.

Do you think the March accomplished what you wanted it to accomplish?

I think it did. My main goal was to help. People who are close to me and those who weren’t close to me helped facilitate a space for people to join in the fold and and really find their space within [political activism].

Whether they do it through art or whether they do it through political activism or through community housing, whatever it is, there’s a space for everyone. The walk really helped to create that.

Now that you’re transitioning into focusing on your musical career, has your past recognition for the activism served as a springboard for your music?

It’s funny because it’s 2017 now and I did all of this in 2014 going into 2015. I want to say it didn’t really have much of an impact, even though I was still doing music and doing everything before [the march], people just really knew me as Synead the activist, and that was it.

Some people knew I did music; they were interested and they wanted to know more, but mainly the focus was on all the activism. That’s why I kind of had to take a step back and refocus myself because the original plan was to always do music.

I fell into the activist world, which I’m really kind of thankful for because it really opened up a community of people that I didn’t know were there. They’ve been so supportive; maybe some of the most supportive people I’ve met in a long time, and now we have our own community, and we all do things together.

There’s a lot of history of musicians moving into activism, and you’re sort of already there. Do you have any particular musical inspirations, either on the musical side or the activism side?

One of my inspirations for activists is Stokely Carmichael. He’s from Trinidad, and his birthday’s the same birthday as mine, and he’s very lit.

As for musical inspiration, I love Outkast. I love Erykah Badu. I love Lauryn Hill. All because they have a platform, and even though they do what they do for themselves, they do really impactful things for the community. They use what they have to speak about issues in the world.

They speak about society, and I think that’s important. If you have a platform, don’t just sit there and squander it, or you know, blow all your money. If you want to blow your money, cool, do something good for humanity. Give me one thing, and I’ll be happy.

Your single “Tropicao” is directly part of your own heritage. Is that the type of music that you’re looking to release more of?

I’ve always been interested in releasing things that are culturally familiar, sonically familiar to me. These are all things I’ve grown up with, so dancehall, reggae, calypso, soca, even like bachata merengue.

I grew up in Washington Heights, so even that has had an impact on my life. Reggae is funny. I remember listening to Daddy Yankee in high school and middle school.

So yes, I think those are really important factors for me. In terms of releasing music later on, I want to explore a lot.

I grew up listening to ’80s music. My mom has had a big impact on my music exposure. She’s really young, so a lot of things I’d listen to would be a lot of things she listened to when she was young.

I really love Prince, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, so I’m very inspired by the ’80s, thumping beats, disco,’70s funk, and ’90s pop, or R&B. I want to be able to explore all of it.

I always tell people I’m a jackie of all trades, and so I’ve always got my hand in everything at all times. Sometimes it’s hard to just focus on one thing, but I think that kind of works really well in my favor because I have a large range.

What’s next for your musical career? Where do you hope to take it? Are you looking ahead to an album?

Right now, I’m definitely working on an EP. It’ll probably be released sometime… I want to say not too far, but we’ll see what happens. I’ve got to move another single coming up soon, probably later on this summer, called “Lost in the Wild.” I think it will really get the people moving.


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